Agreements 5-10 description

“Agreements (5—10)” consists of two objects (cast steel tuning forks) and six radio transmissions. Two of the radio transmissions originate with antennas in the courtyard of Ballroom Marfa, the other four are distributed at various locations around Marfa, TX, forming a sort of ring around the town so that you are never more than 1000 feet or so from a transmitter.

The transmissions, overlapping geographically and all broadcasting on the same frequency (106.1 fm), compete with one another to reach the listener who chooses to tune in. This competing interference manifests as pockets of clarity, separated by boundaries of noise and silence. Listening while moving, one can hear these borders as they are crossed, and the shift between territories can be heard as dominance rotating from one signal to another.

No two signals can hold the territory. It is a function of FM radio receivers to capture only those signals that rise above a power threshold, and to discard those signals that fall below. This filtering is useful as a means of identifying the dominant source in densely-populated areas, where it is common for multiple transmissions to occupy the same bandwidth. In the rare boundary areas where each signal carries equal power, a receiver will oscillate randomly between signals.

The tuning forks, one double-sided and the other four-sided, resonate with two and four narrowly-separated pitches, respectively. Each of these reference pitches corresponds directly to one of the six radio transmissions, serving as the basis for the musical universe contained in that signal. All sounds heard in a transmission conform to the tuning note, and its attendant harmonics, that belongs to that transmitter.

Cast as single objects that hold multiple reference pitches, the forks present the limits of sensing the whole of a group. Listening to each individual part in turn, you hold the sound of one ringing note in your memory in order to compare it to another sound. Similarly, your sense of each radio signal is interrupted as your position changes, and the relative power of all signals shift. This is not just a problem of simultaneity, or of a fixed point of view; this is a model of difference—a multiplicity of centers—that is based on inter-penetration, dominance and exclusion, not the wave-like interference of phases.

Holding one of the tuning forks in your hand, striking it or tapping it to let it ring, it is clear that each vibrating side produces a complex sympathetic resonance in each of the other sides. Holding any of the sides to mute vibrations, it is possible to alternate between a striated, harmonic sound and a smooth, pure tone. Repetition, and difference. This is unfortunately not the system of infinite combinations we had imagined, layering and blending to produce new forms from an original master. This is, luckily, the coequal and simultaneous possibility of multiple, separated centers that can interact but don’t need to. What you hear tells you where you are. Each transmission carries its own information, variations on a theme: wild variation that conforms to a system. You can move from one place to another, or you can stay still.